Silence of the lion

In a recent interview to an English TV channel, I was both startled and delighted to see Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi tongue-tied – though that’s a mild word for his reaction – to a question on whether he thinks he should apologise for 2002 to be able to clear his path to New Delhi.

The manner in which Modi maintained an unstudied silence, even after the question was repeated a second time, and cut short that interview tells us a lot of things about the man and the bind that he is in today. As such, he is liked very little by everybody else in the BJP, including the leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The BJP is no longer the `BJP’ in Gujarat – its just a party of Narendra Modi. Once Modi is ousted, I think he BJP will take a long time to get back its bearings in that state, much as the Shiv Sena had to do after the exit of Narayan Rane from the party which was his and his baby alone in the Konkan.

Now. as though this was not enough in the race for unpopularity, Modi is perhaps damned if he does (apologise) and damned if he doesn’t. If he does express regrets, he is in danger of losing his Hindutva vote entirely which will eventually shift back to the original BJP rather than the Congress. And if he does say he will not apologise, there could ber a consolidation of the minority vote behind the opposition. Then, after the incident of the turban presented by Muslim leaders during his sadbhavana fast, it would be clear to all and sundry that nothing has changed about this man who presided over mass murders and killings of Muslims in his state.

If Modi had been really a politician and less of a tyrant and dictator he would have played a clever game by resigning after the court verdict against Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi who were indicted for not just their complicity but their actual involvement in the killings of Muslims in Ahmedabad. With less than six monthys to go to the polls, he would have done the right thing and at the same time gathered an enormous sympathy vote not just among his core voters but also among those on the right increasingly disenchanted with his administration. The Congress is in such a pitiasble stte in Gujarat, it would never have been able to regain lost ground in time for the polls and Modi would have won not just Gujarat, again, but also half the battle for New Delhi. In addition his critics would have been left with nothing to say against him and he would have killed all competition in the BJP with one swipe, as well.

But that was clearly expecting too much of Modi: he may have a 56-inch chest but clearly not too big a heart or liver. When he did not resign in the aftermath of the riots – for even if he was not involved, it was clearly a failure of his ability to govern – why would he after a mere court verdict? Even so, I wonder what was he afraid of – of not returning to power, despite everything going for him? That’s somewhat like a limpet, I would think, not the lion he proclaims himself to be! For much as he may fudge the statistics coming out of Gujarat, the truth is getting revealed bit by bit – that Modi’s Gujarat is really not as high up on the indices as he makes it out o be and that there is much discontent among many groups in the state, which is not really good news for the chief minister.

His hit and run tactics, like when he accused Sonia Gandhi of the absolutely ridiculous charge of having spent Rs 1889 crore on her foreign travels (I guess he might have missed a decimal point somewhere), without any further substantiation, only adds to the impression that the man, while under no rwal threat, might not be quite as confident as he was in the past years.

For something has to give and Modi cannot rule Gujarat endlessly. So much about Modi is insulting to the Gujaratis: that he is unable to make a difference between malnutrition and anorexia, that he has not really added to the state’s power grid in all these years, that there is corruption galore in Gujarat for the very reason of his working style and he will not allow a Lokayukta into hs state… But. most importantly. that this land of the greatest apostle or peace, Mahatma Gandhi should now be drenched in the blood of innocents and with no one in the Modi administration really interested in wiping the tears of the victims as Gandhiji once upon a time did…

Also I wouid not place much value on the United Kingdo, ending Modi’s pariah status. For, during my travels to the UK I have noticed the country bends over backward to accommodate even militant Muslims inciting terror or violence (as the case with regard to preacher Abu Hamza well demonstrates). The British sense of justice and honour overtakes everything else though the same may not be true with the United States. I should think.

Of course, Modi is not in the category of Abu Hamza but he has enough blood on his hands to make it impossible for him to end up as Prime Minister of India – if that is what the Brits were thinking while reviewing his case for a visa. For, apart from the Congress – which anyway is keen on Modi being launched nationally so that that consolidates its own minority vote behind the party — Modi has to contend with the fact that the rest of his own party will not allow him to do to their party in the rest of India what he has done to them in Gujarat.

Modi rules like a latter-day Moghul — people get tickets at his pleasure, they cannot be certain they will get tickets again for another term if they at all displease even his little left finger. So, in the absence of a Lokayukta, they try to get away with as much as they can gather in the term given to them. Considering the anti-graft mood in India, I wonder how long the man will last once he brings this culture of `me and me alone’ to New Delhi, especially since the BJP in any case is faced with a multitude of parties outside of Gujarat, none of who will touch them with a barge pole until Modi continues to be one of them..

The best case scenario for the man would be to split the BJP after the Gujarat elections – that will effectively kill the BJP once the funds provided by Modi for its running (and hence for their tolerance of him) have dried up. Modi can then gather unto himself like- minded `Hindutvists’ and see if, unlike the BJP, he is able to take his own party’s vote percentage over the 25 per cent mark.

I say this because if he either loses Gujarat, gets less seats or even wins the state soemhow, he gets confined only to the western tip of India. That is the corner he has painted himself into. He will then get all the visas in the world but none of them will be worth the apology he should make/could have made to stay in the reckoning, not just in Gujarat but also the rest of Indian – and the world.

No wonder, Modi looked hither thither and everywhere in his bid to evade the crucial question in that interview. Modi knows which side his bread is buttered. Unfortunately, butter has its own way of turning rancid and Delhi might continue to evade Modi for a long long time, perhaps forever. So this silence of his is certainly not golden, for him and for his party: if things continue as they are, Modi and the BJP might win the battle in Gujarat but certainly not the war for the rest of India!

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